Buddha statue returns to Peshawar Museum after being displayed in Switzerland

PESHAWAR: The 2,000 years old statue of Buddha that had been put on display at an exhibition in Switzerland has been returned to the Peshawar Museum after around three months, an official said on Sunday.

Nawazuddin, spokesperson for Directorate of Archeology and Museum, said that the statue was out of Peshawar Museum for around 100 days. The 365 cm high and 46 cm wide statue was displayed at an international exhibition for the first time, he added.

Estimated to have been created between the 1st and 3rd century, the Buddha statue was discovered in 1909 in Seri Bahlol village in Mardan district and has been on display at the Peshawar Museum since 1911. Seri Bahlol is a world heritage site located about 70 km northwest of Peshawar.

The statue was insured for $20 million before it was loaned for display at the exhibition at Rietberg Museum in Zurich, Switzerland. Titled ‘Buddha Shakyamuni,’ the 1500 kg heavy sculpture was the main highlight at the ‘Next Stop Nirvana – Approaches to Buddhism’ exhibition in Zurich.

The Embassy of Switzerland and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation initiated contacts between Rietberg Museum and the government of Pakistan, resulting in signing of a memorandum of understanding under which the Peshawar Museum agreed to lend the status of Buddha for displaying it at the exhibition.

“The Buddha Shakyamuni has returned well home @PeshawarMuseum, Pakistan! We would like to thank everyone involved who made this colossal project possible! Many thanks to @PeshawarMuseum @EDA_DFAE @GovernmentofKhyberPakhtunkhwa @GovernmentofPakistan

@emirates,” the Museum Rietberg tweeted on April 12.

Curator of Museum Rietberg Johannes Beltz tweeted, “The colossal Gandhara Buddha from Peshawar is back to his home – after being part of the exhibition “Next Stop Nirvana” at the Museum Bietberg. More than 35,000 visitors of all ages came to admire this great work of art. In the name of the entire museum Rietberg, I thank all supporters, helpers, and partners, who made this possible. In particular, my thanks go to the Peshawar Museum, the Swiss Embassy in Islamabad, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the Government of Pakistan!”

Ottawa monastery’s Buddha statue vandalized for the third time

Members of a Heron Road Buddhist community say they are fearful after a statue of the Buddha was vandalized for the third time.

A surveillance camera caught a vandal hitting the statue with a piece of wood early Wednesday morning, the monastery’s chief incumbent monk Rev. Nugegalayaye Jinananda Thero said.

On the wood was written the First Commandment from the Bible: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Police confirmed they were called to a mischief complaint at the monastery Wednesday.

“This is the third time and the whole Buddhist community is threatened by this — it’s not only vandalizing a statue,” Jinananda Thero said.

“It is an uneasy feeling.”

A Buddha statue at the Hilda Jayewardenaramaya Buddhist Monastery was decapitated by a vandal in March 2018 and then damaged again several months later in May after the monastery had raised $7,000 to install surveillance cameras. In that second incident — as in the third — the footage was given to police.

In the May 2018 incident, a man was charged with mischief but acquitted April 8 after a trial.

On Wednesday, a monk noticed the piece of wood on the ground, then saw the most recent damage, which is to the Buddha’s ear, late morning. They checked video footage and saw a person had struck the statue, which came from Sri Lanka as a gift to the monastery and is valued at $8,000, at about 1:30 a.m.

The fear is that vandalism could escalate to physical threats against members of the community, said Jinananda Thero, who teaches meditation and mindfulness to local school children and said the monastery tries to render service to the broader community which has welcomed them as immigrants.

“We are a peaceful community,” he said. “Canada is a peaceful society, Ottawa is a beautiful city with beautiful people. We just want this not to happen again.”

Jinananda Thero even wishes for peace for the vandal.

“He needs some compassion, he needs some support from somebody.”